For jazz saxophonists, transcriptions play a vital role in our musical development. Many of us have bought transcriptions books featuring solos by various players such as Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Bob Mintzer, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins to name just a few. Since transcribing is one of the best ways to improve one’s playing, it’s been my experience that the familiar territory of standards is the best bet when it comes to incorporating new ideas into one’s vocabulary.
Many of us musicians have been told about the pros and cons of transcription books by our private teachers or from reading about transcription books online.
The Pros of Transcriptions Books
- Published transcriptions serve as a resource for checking one’s own transcriptions for accuracy.
- They allow a player to analyze certain solos they like and transcribe licks from that solo into all 12 keys.
- These transcriptions will help any saxophonist begin to digest a player’s articulation, phrasing, style, and tone.
The Cons of Transcriptions Books
- Some players might solely rely on transcription books instead of putting the effort into transcribing a solo themselves.
- Not all transcriptions are 100% accurate.
Renown saxophonist Eli Bennett’s Chris Potter plays Acapella Solo Standards is truly one of the most unique and useful transcription books I have seen in a long time. This book contains some of the most popular jazz standards such as “All the Things You Are”, “I Love You”, “26-2”, “Ladybird”, and more. In addition to the ten standards, Eli has included the audio recording for each tune so that you can play along with Chris.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about this book is that it is not actually a physical, paper book, but instead, it is an e-book. Like virtually all e-books, this one comes in PDF format, so you’ll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. Being that it’s in electronic format, you’ll be reading the solos off of a computer screen.
UPDATE: While I originally thought that it was not technically legal to print the book out, Eli just informed me that buyers of the book are indeed free to print out copies for themselves, as he wouldn’t expect anyone to rely only on a computer screen to read it.
Although it’s not technically legal to do so, my guess is that some of you may print the book out yourselves, or through a local print shop. Due to the copyright notice inside of the book, some printers may not agree to print it. So in future editions, perhaps it would be good for Bennett to include some sort of provision for printing out a single copy of the book. It would also be great to see a paper version of the book for sale at some point, as it would almost certainly be quite successful.
The Nitty Gritty
Although this might seem like a daunting task, much of Potter’s solos can be played if taken apart piece-by-piece. This is made as simple as possible due to the way Eli has laid out the book. Since I have played through all these solos as well as listened to Potter while following the transcriptions, it’s clear that Eli truly invested a great deal of time to give saxophone players a very accurate and detailed transcription on each standard. The notation is very clear and easy to read, which makes the book that much more effective.
Unlike some transcription books which do not include the chords above each measure, Eli includes the chords so players will have the ability to see what Potter is playing over these changes which in turn will help any saxophonist begin to incorporate some of these musical ideas into their own playing.
Finally, the fact that Eli himself is able to play flawlessly through each of these solos from start to finish (see the first video below) is a testament to the practical usefulness of the book. I intend to work through it extensively and incorporate Potter’s brilliant approach into my own playing.
To learn more about and purchase the book for yourself, head over to Eli’s web site.